How Former Ballet Dancer Tekla Kostek Found a New Chapter in Pole Dance

January 11, 2022

Tekla Kostek started her career in professional ballet, dancing for Boston Ballet II and Los Angeles Chamber Ballet before branching out to dance in short films and pickup companies, teach yoga to the Los Angeles Lakers and guest-coach for “Dancing with the Stars.”

But in 2013, her career found a new focus: pole dance. In the years since, she has won several championships in Pole Sport Organization competitions and coached in her Massachusetts studio. Now, she’s created the Willow Grouse clothing line and consults on dance/fitness business branding, mostly within the pole community. 

Why Pole:

“For me, pole dance spot-on captures the feeling of welcoming everyone to the party. It’s total body acceptance, extreme strength and flexibility, and owning your feminine nature. You bring your unique gifts.”

“Pole embraces diversity and unifies movers—gymnasts, ballerinas, contemporary dancers, aerialists, acrobats, contortionists, exotic movers, social dancers, yogis—with one apparatus: the pole.” 

Tekla Kostek does an upside down split on a pole
Tekla Kostek. Photo by Alloy Images, Courtesy Kostek

How She Got Into It:

“When I was in India, studying yoga, I was introduced to mallakhamb pole and I fell in love with it. And in the States, the competition events were so exciting—the vibe was electric. I wasn’t trying to move on from dance. Pole, for me, just happened.”  

How Pole Deepens Other Dance Practices:

“Pole dance allowed me to move freely and deeply. The power is not only in the sheer physicality, but in the risk-taking. You’re dangling in the air by your limbs. Mastering difficult moves brings a shift in consciousness. It’s that “no” changing to a ‘yes’ that is contagious and spreads to other parts of your life.” 

“When you are asked to push a limit, into a deeper split or a one-armed handstand, that is how we widen our vocabulary. I always tell students to work towards the goal from playfulness, from being curious.”

Her Advice for Interested Dancers:

“If you’re interested in competing in pole, know what you are signing up for. For example, a dramatic competition will differ from a technical competition, and you have to train or prepare for each differently.”

On Her Clothing Brand:

“I developed Willow Grouse to create a brand of dance/yoga clothing that very much embodied the pole community philosophy of being comfortable in your own skin.” 

The Women Who Inspired Her”

“One reason why I was ready for pole in 2013 was that I wanted to share the wealth of feminine consciousness I had gained from my mentors—Susan Pilarre at School of American Ballet, Anna-Marie Holmes at Boston Ballet, Mavis Staines at Canada’s National Ballet School, yogi Shiva Rea, dancer/actress Jennifer Nairn-Smith. I was ready to share my journey from body-obsessed to deep and total body acceptance.”